1 April 2024

How ‘Advocacy Everywhere’ Centers Customers and Builds Business—With Nick Venturella   

‘Advocacy Everywhere’ is a strategy built for the post-pandemic world. 

Before 2020, it was relatively easy to attract customers to an online customer advocacy platform; they were eager to engage with content and create connections. But those same customers have become fragmented, many working in hybrid environments and pulled in too many directions as they try to do more with less.

With so much competition for their attention, customers are less interested in searching out yet another online forum. And that’s why, says CMA professional Nick Venturella, it’s absolutely critical to meet customers where they already are—online and offline—with advocacy they actually want.

I recently spoke with Nick about the evolution he’s seen in customer advocacy since 2020, and why he believes the organizations that get advocacy everywhere right are the ones that are going to succeed.

Interview with Nick Venturella, Customer Advocacy Engagement Manager, Workday

Nick Venturella, Customer Advocacy Engagement Manager, Workday

Name: Nick Venturella

Job title: Customer Advocacy Engagement Manager (contractor)

Company: Workday

Previous companies: Databricks, Dayforce (formerly Ceridian)

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Degree: BA in Art & Design

Fun facts about Nick:

💖 The person you most admire is: My wife – she’s the kindest, most humble, and strongest person I know

📚 Book you think everyone should be reading right now: Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being

🎵 Your favorite musician/band is: Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

👪 You’re a parent to: Two boys

🙏 The #1 thing you’re grateful for today: Family

👉 We’ll often find you: Creating music/art, building guitars, and promoting them

Tell us about your role as Customer Advocacy Engagement Manager.

Today, my role at Workday is helping to build out our online customer advocacy platform—a place to engage our customers. 

My job is to help run the platform and make sure there’s relevant content for our customers so that they want to keep coming back, and over time we can earn the ability to ask them to advocate for the brand. 

Doing so helps Sales close deals quicker with a growing pool of quality references to choose from. More advocates help digital customer success motions and customer communities scale their effectiveness. 

It also means that we can retain advocates longer, which leads to larger lifetime customer values, and they’re more likely to bring our product to a new organization if they move on to a new job.

We want to engage our customers with relevant content and peer engagements to help them be more successful with the product and as professionals. This isn’t just to the benefit of their current employers, but also to benefit their personal brand and future career prospects.

If we can do that and start to build trust, we can ask other questions to learn more about our customers and foster a deeper relationship. That leads to more mutual affinity.

The key is figuring out how to do that at scale, but in a way that’s still personalized and allows us to build an authentic relationship so we can leverage their advocacy. You can’t have advocates if they aren’t engaged. 

Let’s talk about the evolution of customer advocacy since 2020. What was the state of customer advocacy pre-pandemic?

Pre-pandemic, the customer advocacy platform was an online destination for our customers. It was relatively easy to get people’s attention, encourage them to visit this destination, engage with the content there, and eventually become advocates.  

The reason the platform worked so well at the time was that most people were still in an office, still having hallway conversations, having impromptu meetings. They were off their screens to a certain extent, so it was easier to encourage them to visit an online advocacy destination to read up on industry trends or connect with peers at other organizations.  

And that changed in 2020?

Yes. During the pandemic, everybody was totally remote and they were on a screen all day long. There was no break. Their online attention was getting fragmented, and everyone was burning out. They just didn’t have the time or availability or mental bandwidth to get to an advocacy destination like they did prior to the pandemic. 

But also during the pandemic, while people were at home and businesses were trying to adjust operations, customer advocacy started to become a bit of a hero. Customer advocacy professionals had relationships with customers, and, at a time when organizations didn’t know where new business was going to come from, advocacy teams could double down on existing customers and retain them, or upsell and cross-sell for some level of new revenue. 

By recognizing customers and seeing them and hearing them, in the dark time of the pandemic, customer advocacy roles were able to surprise and delight the customers and give them some hope, give them something to look forward to.

But by 2022, all the major tech companies had had hard years with the pandemic and they started to lean up and lay off people. Customer advocacy ended up on the chopping block a lot. It’s a new discipline and a lot of people don’t understand fully what these professionals do, and there were layoffs.

What’s the situation today, post-pandemic?

Now a lot of people work remotely, others are hybrid and in the office a few days a week, and some are in the office full-time. 

People are online and also having in-person conversations. And in a way, they’re even more fragmented than they were during the pandemic—maybe you’re moving back and forth between an office and a remote environment, being on screen all day some days, and not at all other days. Your attention’s all over the place. Customer advocacy activities now have to find customers where they are, online or off. It’s what I, and others in this space, call advocacy everywhere.

What does ‘advocacy everywhere’ look like? How does it affect business? 

Advocacy everywhere can be whatever an organization determines it’s going to be, which may take some experimentation. It means there’s no longer a single destination for customers, no longer one online platform for customers to get relevant information, engage and connect. Instead, the advocacy content comes to the customer, wherever they are. 

For example, at this point, LinkedIn is ubiquitous for a professional. Everyone’s there. Why not be there? Maybe there’s a customer community on LinkedIn. Or maybe there’s a knowledgebase support portal and, as a customer, I need to go and find the answers to questions. Maybe advocacy’s happening in the knowledgebase in some way, shape or form. Advocacy can be in newsletters and in in-app messaging. We need to go where people are. 

Customer advocacy can pop up wherever a customer is—so they don’t have to find it, the advocacy comes to meet them. Ultimately advocacy everywhere comes down to getting in front of customers who want to hear from my organization because they enjoy the products that they are already an advocate for or are becoming an advocate for.

The hard part is figuring out how and where to get in front of customers to deepen the relationship and provide value so they want to continue to receive your communications in various formats on various platforms and want to advocate for your organization as a result. Also, tracking such advocacy activity across multiple touchpoints is tricky. The companies that engage in advocacy everywhere are figuring that out.

AI has also been a major disruptor since 2020. How has it affected the customer advocacy landscape?  

By mid-2022, AI was starting to come around, and major tech companies were investing in it. They saw AI as either an additional SKU product or something they could integrate into their current products to make them more attractive and bring in new business. 

It became an arms race as companies wanted to get AI and machine learning (ML) functionality within their products. Their focus changed and a lot of advocacy people were left out of a job or were burnt out because they were being told to do more with less.  

Then the tech companies that had incorporated AI realized, “Oh, we need customer stories. We need customer evidence for the use of AI and ML products that we have integrated into our tech products.” And they remembered that customer advocacy helped do that. So it became, “Maybe we need to reinvest in customer advocacy to cultivate relationships and uncover success stories to sell more AI products.” The pendulum has swung back a little bit. 

Can AI help implement an advocacy everywhere strategy? 

Yes. AI can be really helpful for a team, even a team of one, if it is used to boost productivity. AI can be used to augment the work of customer advocacy, but it doesn’t replace all of the work. The whole idea of customer advocacy is to build human relationships. AI will likely never have the authenticity of real humans. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have a place.

Advocacy everywhere requires a focus on what customers care about. Customer advocacy doesn’t work if you’re only thinking about the organization first. You have to think about the customer first. What do they need? What’s the smoothest, frictionless, most desirable customer experience that will make it easy for customers to want to advocate for your organization? 

That’s the foundation of advocacy everywhere: make it easy for customers, wherever they are, online and maybe even offline, to engage with you. And then cultivate, capture and analyze data from those different fragmented online and offline areas, and make informed decisions as an organization using that data to benefit that customer and build trust. Build a relationship so you can leverage their advocacy for marketing, for sales references and ultimately to close business.

You want to feel more like you’re partners with your customers rather than in a transactional customer/vendor arrangement. Ultimately, it’s partnership that we’re after.

The pandemic also showed us the importance of real relationships. Everyone’s more connected than ever because of the internet and social media. But so many people are unhappy on those platforms because they’re lacking some of the authentic human connections that they’re craving.

So, how do you bridge that gap with technology? That’s the major feat that I think advocacy everywhere is out to achieve.

Thanks for spending time with us!

Thanks to Nick for exploring Advocacy Everywhere with us—and thank you, reader, for spending part of your day with us. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Nick as much as I did. 

Here’s how you can connect with Nick:

Want to read more about customer marketing? 

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Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads her team in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies like ClickUp, Calendly and WalkMe. Connect with Emily on Linkedin

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